In This Review

The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism
The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and Communism
By Stanley G. Payne
Yale University Press, 2004, 416 pp

Payne, whom Michael Mann calls the "preeminent comparative historian of Fascism," gives us here a well-documented and exhaustive history of both Spanish communism before and during the Spanish Civil War and Soviet policy toward Spain during that period. It does not make for easy reading: the intense factionalism of the Spanish left is mind-boggling (and helps explain the fiasco of the Spanish Republic). And the study of Soviet policy is anything but simple: after initial reluctance, Soviet support was plagued by poor preparation and overweening advisers, and as the Spanish Republic began to disintegrate Stalin found himself without an exit strategy. Payne concludes that Soviet commanders "made a fundamental mistake in taking the Spanish conflict as a valid scenario for a future European war" and that, contrary to charges that the Spanish Communists turned "counter-revolutionary," the "revolutionary Spanish Republic of the Civil War was a unique kind of regime that has no exact historical counterpart": rather than becoming a mere Soviet satellite, it never gave up its radical program of profound social and political transformation.